Digital Attribution Grows Up Through These Changes

Faced with an increasingly mobile consumer base, marketers are devising newer methods for more accurate and detailed digital attribution. These practices and technologies measure digital advertising effectiveness while tracking complex customer journeys across channels.

And desktop is just half the battle. Mobile devices — including smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices — have quickly risen to the dominant mode of internet browsing and communication. Overall mobile browsing traffic surpassed desktop last year, and 77% of Americans now own a smartphone. Experts predict there will be 11.6 billion mobile-connected devices spread across 5.5 billion users around the world by 2020.

Given that most people now own multiple devices, tracking their complete customer journey and giving key touchpoints their due attribution has become more difficult. Someone who researched a product for days on mobile but eventually bought it on their laptop could appear as two disconnected people, even though they are one and the same. Without proper attribution, marketers don’t know which touches had the greatest, or any effect on conversions, and thus deserve more of their attention.

“Applying an attribution model to assess the contribution of different digital advertising elements is vital for advertisers if they want to understand the effectiveness of their digital marketing mix,” according to the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau. Proper attribution enables marketers to allocate marketing spend sensibly and optimize campaigns effectively.

Thankfully, new developments in attribution are helping to give each digital touch its due credit.

Evolving the Model: Multi-Touch Attribution

Multi-touch attribution (MTA) models, also known as fractional attribution, trade out the traditional “last click” or “post click” model, where 100% of the credit goes to the last thing a converted lead sees or does. Instead, each touch is addressed along the customer journey and weighed to algorithmically assign a percentage of attribution based on its influence.

“The approach appears to be gaining steam,” observes Mobile Marketer. Based on a Mobile Marketing Association survey, “more than 150 of the top 500 marketers are using MTA, and an additional 250 plan to implement it in the next 18 months.”

Under a fractional model, key touches are recognized for their contribution to an endpoint, usually a completed sale. If for instance, someone sees an ad on a favorite blog for a new laptop, bookmarks a few reviews, but ultimately buys the laptop after seeing an ad on social media, then post-click models give 100% credit to the social ad. Fractional attribution breaks the 100% into smaller pieces to acknowledge each touch.

The challenge with splitting up attribution is that ad publishers are wary of sharing credit with others. Partial attribution becomes a zero-sum game because any increase in attribution to one takes away from another. Additionally, assigning weight to touchpoints — or which ones influenced a purchase the most — are hard to interpret.

Ultimately, rigorous testing and common standards across industries are needed to settle debates about who deserves credit beyond the final click.

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